Palm Sunday has something of a bittersweet feel about it in terms of liturgy and the sentiment that is expressed through words and gesture. I always find it difficult to enter into the scene by actually waving my palm branch. Is this natural reserve, or is there something different going on?
This evening in our Vigil service we will listen to part of a sermon by St Andrew of Crete, an 8th century bishop. I have always found this a helpful text at the beginning of Holy Week and I think his approach goes some way to helping me find a point of entry into the Palm Sunday liturgy.
Come then, let us run with him as he presses on to his passion. Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or garments or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best we can, with humility of soul and upright purpose. So we may welcome the Word as he comes, so may God who cannot be contained within any bounds, be contained within us.
So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ- ‘for as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ’- so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet.
Not only is this invitation poignant at the beginning of Holy Week, but it also encapsulates something of the monastic journey.